Date of Award

5-1-2012

Degree Type

Dissertation

University or Center

Clark Atlanta University(CAU)

School

School of Arts and Sciences

Degree Name

Ph.D.

Department of History

First Advisor

Dr. Richard Morton

Second Advisor

Dr. Mary Twining

Third Advisor

Dr. Vicki Crawford

Abstract

This cultural history study examined Atlanta’s Neighborhood Arts Center (NAC), which existed from 1975 to 1990, as an example of black cultural politics in the South. As a Black Arts Movement (BAM) institution, this regional expression has been missing from academic discussions of the period. The study investigated the multidisciplinary programming that was created to fulfill its motto of “Art for People’s Sake.” The five themes developed from the program research included: 1) the NAC represented the juxtaposition between the individual and the community, local and national; 2) the NAC reached out and extended the arts to the masses, rather than just focusing on the black middle class and white supporters; 3) the NAC was distinctive in space and location; 4) the NAC seemed to provide more opportunities for women artists than traditional BAM organizations; and 5) the NAC had a specific mission to elevate the social and political consciousness of black people.

In addition to placing the Neighborhood Arts Center among the regional branches of the BAM family tree, using the programmatic findings, this research analyzed three themes found to be present in the black cultural politics of Atlanta which made for the center’s unique grassroots contributions to the movement. The themes centered on a history of politics, racial issues, and class dynamics. The research offers an alternative to the claim that southern expressions of this movement were generated solely by the historically black colleges and universities of their cities.

The study’s findings demonstrate that the Neighborhood Arts Center was a grassroots. multidisciplinary entity for black aesthetics and black cultural nationalism. The findings also suggest that the Neighborhood Arts Center perpetuated the Black Arts Movement through the 1980s. Lastly, the study offers insight on the movement’s transition and legacies.

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